My name’s Nina, I’m 29, and I’m asking for the right to vote as an Irish citizen abroad.
Emigration has remained a central part of the Irish experience; there can’t be a single Irish person who either hasn’t been affected by it, or who hasn’t had to make the move themselves. I’m part of the latter group and I’ve lived in London for the last four years.
While the move has made sense for me career wise, and I’ve made a nice life in London, I often feel that this has been at the expense of my identity as an Irish person. It may seem dramatic, but once you leave for any amount of time there is a sense that you’re somehow deemed “not Irish enough” to have any investment in the country. It feels as though once you’re gone, the door shuts behind you.
Not being able to vote from abroad, especially after just 1.5 years, feels punitive. When I compare it with the experiences of Italian, American, and other friends living here, they’re shocked that I’m unable to vote. For them, voting is a right and responsibility of citizenship. I strongly believe the same.
For many emigrants there’s a long gaze back towards home, I often wonder if it looks both ways. Does Ireland look outwards to its citizens abroad, does it miss them? I’ve said previously that the Irish experience is marked by emigration, but it doesn’t have to be marked by absence as well. Allowing those overseas to retain their voice gives them a reason to come back and it makes them feel like they still belong. It keeps the connection between communities at home and abroad alive.
We live in divisive times, and I can say especially being in Britain with Brexit impending, that fostering connections rather than breaking them is to the benefit of everyone, at home or abroad. I am Irish and I am European, and I don’t want to be forgotten. Britain’s Queen does not represent me, and I’d like to be able to vote for the president who does.